Musical contribution - May 2017

O Durchbrecher aller Bande - Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877–1933)

Last year was “Reger year”, and now in 2017 we are commemorating German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert. Many organists had never heard of him before 1984, when Herman van Vliet brought out an LP featuring the works of the music teacher, theoretician, organist and pianist. The youngest of 12 children, Sigfrid moved throughout Germany with his family. It is said that none of the 12 children were born in the same place. He was no stranger to trials and tribulations. Although his Choral Improvisations were enthusiastically received both at home and abroad (quote: When Reger brought out his choral preludes, we took off our hats, but when Karg-Elert’s improvisations appeared, we tossed them into the air in delight), he noticed that virtually no one performed his compositions.

The arrangement we’re presenting this month comes from his 66 Choral Improvisations opus 65 Part 4 “Himmelfahrt und Pfingsten”. We hear the melody without any adornment. Karg-Elert himself recommends a trumpet 8’, but another reed pipe is also possible of course, depending on the accompaniment. The original says: Man. II 8’, 4’ und 16’ und Flautino 2’ aus dem III. Man gekoppelt. That is a beautiful registration. However, I can also imagine a more Dutch combination of 8’, 4’ and 3’.

Finally, the composer himself writes that we can also perform this work as a trio by omitting the cantus firmus. However, it’s advisable then to play the accompaniment on separate keyboards with equal strength but contrasting colours.

We wish you well for Pentecost.

André van Vliet

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